The 5 Country 3 Week Tour on 3 Wheels!

HobbesOnTour

Über Member
Location
The Netherlands
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Background:

There’s not a lot of background to this. Initially, I had a month off work and had planned to get to Spain and cycle the Camino del Cid (The MTB version). Unfortunately, the logistics of getting to Spain (& back!) proved to be too difficult and expensive. Plus, I had other stuff going on that was taking longer than planned. I had a quick look at possible options and decided on the spur of the moment to head to Ireland (home) and back.

It was such a spur of the moment plan that I booked my first ferry about 24 hours before departure and spent all of about 20 minutes plotting the route (https://cycle.travel/map) including downloading it to my gps!

What could possibly go wrong? ^_^

This would be a completely different kind of a tour for me.

Normally, I have an outline of a route but expect to wander around as I please. This time, I was under time pressure and had a minimum daily distance I would have to hit. I estimated there was very little wiggle room otherwise i’d be getting stuck somewhere. I’d normally average 80 km per day, but this trip would require a higher daily average. In fact, this is the first tour I’ve ever done that I would be following a route with no allowance to vary off it.

This is also the first long tour I’ve taken with my new toy, the ExtraWheel trailer.

Another difference, is that this is the first tour of my adult life that I’ve taken in a place where they speak the same language as me!
 
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HobbesOnTour

HobbesOnTour

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Location
The Netherlands
Sep 11 Home to Ferry +/- 105 km

I had a lot of stuff to do (non-touring related) and had set noon as a departure time. Setting off at 11:58 am I was already ahead of schedule! :-) Unfortunately I had forgotten to pack my ham sandwiches so there would be a nice surprise waiting for me when I got back!

Heading pretty much directly west, the wind was against me the whole way. And what a wind! In my optimism, I had decided to cycle the whole way, foregoing the option of hopping on a train. After an hour or two of that wind, I was seriously re-considering that option!

In any case, all went well. I was familiar with most of the route until I crossed the Maas, then the route kept me away from Dordrecht and Rotterdam city. Nice route, but windy and no chance of catching a train now.

Then it got interesting! At one stage I pulled up at a river crossing and saw the ferry on the other side. No problem - or so I thought. Unfortunately, that ferry was for another route. Apparently, my ferry wasn’t running! Thankfully, the ferry came over, explained the situation but carried me across anyway! Success! The pilot was good enough to check and make sure I wouldn’t have any more similar problems! It would have added a lot of miles onto my trip if they hadn’t taken me across, so I was darn grateful!

In any case, rolled into the port and rolled onto the ferry. Almost the last person aboard, although I was there the recommended 90 minutes before departure.


Up to my cabin, showered and changed and then off for some food. Early night. The wind had worn me out.
 
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HobbesOnTour

HobbesOnTour

Über Member
Location
The Netherlands
Sep 12 Hull to ‘Arlington +/- 95 km

And so on to Holyhead!

The first order of business was to get a good breakfast and after that, I set off very well fueled up.

Getting out of Hull was easy enough. I’d a mixture of roads, multiple use paths and some canal/river paths. I had a lot of fun with some of the devices designed to prevent unauthorised access to these vehicle free paths. Fun today, an irritation tomorrow and down right bloody frustration by day three!

In any case, it was a pleasant day’s riding. I stopped for fish and chips for lunch and powered on. As the sun was getting cooler, I pulled up to check out options for where I would stay tonight. The path I was on was busy enough with walkers, dog walkers and occasional cyclists. I wasn’t seeing any obvious places to pitch up a tent and my internet was telling me the nearest campsite was a few miles behind me. Not something I wanted to contemplate. Then a group of 4 cyclists pulled up and we were chatting. They had passed me earlier and were now on their way home. One of them mentioned a pub in ‘Arlington that had a field out the back and was sure I’d have no problem to camp there, so off I set. When I got to Harlington I stopped to check and see where ‘Arlington was. You see where I’m going with this? :-)

Found the pub no problem, and a very pleasant and welcoming bar-lady explained that the field belonged to a farmer next door - a friendly chap by all accounts. I called over, met himself and his wife and the dog and my request was graciously granted - no payment acceptable.

Pitched the tent, had a pint in the pub, leaving a pint in the pipes for my host and slept like a baby.

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HobbesOnTour

HobbesOnTour

Über Member
Location
The Netherlands
September 13 ‘Arlington to Broadbottom 70 km.

When you do what I did for route planning, then you have got to accept some surprises. My surprise today was the sign welcoming me to the Peak District! :-) I also figured out that I was following pretty much the Trans-Pennine trail. Challenge accepted! :-)

The climbing was fine. I live in Holland, so hills are a novelty. I learned to enjoy hills and mountains in Spain. I have no problem with going slow. So long as I can turn my legs, I’ll climb. (Wind, on the other hand, I really hate that!).

The surfaces were fine. Off-road, a lot, certainly but my bike and trailer combo was handling it.

But combine the surfaces and some of the descents - now it was interesting! (For interesting, read terrifying at times!)

And still some of those bloody gates that meant I had to remove my bags to get through.

Crossing some of the roads were interesting too. Most drivers weren’t as impressed with my cross-country feats as I was and declined to slow down to let me across.

But what cycling! Out in the open for lots of the day. Sheep, rocks and wind for company. It certainly made me feel like an explorer, going bravely (foolishly?) where not too many had gone before. I met three guys on lightly packed bikes at one of the gates - they flew through, where I had to strip all the panniers off my bike and then load them up again. I also met one other fully loaded tourer, who like me was bouncing along very slowly going east to west. Other than that, pretty much alone except for the sheep. Thankfully, the weather was dry the whole day.

Accommodation tonight was a bit of a pain in the ass. I stopped and checked my options and loaded a route onto the gps. Chatting to another cyclist I missed a turn off but I could see on the screen that I intersected the road again further down so I continued on. As it turned out, the problem with GPS is they are 2 dimensional - the “intersection” was above my head! Eventually made my way to the place listed as guesthouse and campsite, allowing myself to dream of a cooked breakfast in the morning. No tents. In fairness, one of the ladies used her phone, called a garden centre/campsite and convinced the owner that I wasn’t too strange so I secured myself a place to stay at a very small campsite that was a part of a farm, garden centre and various other enterprises. I just had to get there. More traps at the beginning and end of cycle paths, but eventually, I got there, set up the tent, cooked some food, had a shower and slept like the proverbial baby.

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HobbesOnTour

HobbesOnTour

Über Member
Location
The Netherlands
September 14 Broadbottom to Newton 75km

Early start and decided to stop for breakfast en route. Eventually, went off route to Denton to find a breakfast - and what a breakfast! Warm and full, I was ready for the rain that started to come down and would stay coming down in regular showers the whole afternoon.

Going past places like Manchester, Stockport, Warrington etc I didn’t know what to be expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised at how relatively quiet most of the route was. There were a few long stretches along canals that slowed me down. The paths are narrow! Especially around the bridges! If you’ve ever seen the episode of Frasier where he’s learning to ride a bike and keeps focusing on things he might hit….. And keeps hitting them, well, that’s how I felt along those canal banks! I was extremely conscious of the proximity of the canal, the tiny strip of grass between the path and the water and kept having visions of hitting the water. Falling in wasn’t the horrifying thing - watching the bike sink beneath the surface was the terrifying thing! Thankfully, I managed to keep us out of the water!

Past Frodsham, I located a campsite that turned out to be very large, very impersonal and very noisy. No matter, I cooked up some pasta, had a shower and hit the sack. The large family group that seemed to have set up a karaoke apparatus in a marquee at the bottom of the field had barely an influence on my sleep.

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HobbesOnTour

HobbesOnTour

Über Member
Location
The Netherlands
September 15 Newton to Penmaenawr 109km

This morning was the first time I’ve seen people wearing pyjamas, dressing gowns and slippers who were staying in tents. Then, on the road and off to Wales. Lots of road riding until Prestatyn, then onto a wonderful, coastal cycle path. It was windy, sure, and a bit slow when the path ran along a promenade that was full of people walking their children, their dogs or their spouse, but it was great! I love the sea, so cycling beside it is one of my ideas of heaven on a bike.

No shortage of caravan parks, but not many accepting tents. In fact, some were very clear that they didn’t receive anyone without a reservation. I was amused at one site in particular that had a large sign painted on a wall that started off “Cyclists won’t read this….”. It went on to describe their shop/cafe and all the treats they had for cyclists. I was tempted until I saw that they didn’t accept tents. Maybe when I’ve a caravan on the back of my bike I’ll stop off.

At the end of the day, to get to the campsite I wanted, all I had to do was to cross the A55 dual carriageway. Ha! Easier said than done! Anyways, eventually got across using an underpass, doubled back and climbed half a mountain to quite a nice campsite that was very quiet - not surprising given the evening that was shaping up.

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HobbesOnTour

HobbesOnTour

Über Member
Location
The Netherlands
September 16 Penmaenawr to Holyhead 78km

The day started with rain. Lots of rain. There had been a lot of wind in the night too. Even though it was a Saturday, 3 other sets of campers were packing up to go home early. A good omen!

Having not booked a ticket for the Ferry, I wanted to get to Holyhead and book a ticket for the next day. I had no desire to arrive in Dublin at night, so the next day was fast enough for me.

Today was another surprising day - again down to my in-depth planning process! I had really enjoyed my coastal route yesterday and was all set up for more of the same. However, my route had other plans, as, after leaving Bangor, I joined Sustrans route 8, Lôn Las Cymru. Here’s a direct quote from the Sustrans site; “Opened in 1995, the route runs down the whole length of Wales and is one of the toughest of all the long distance routes on the National Cycle Network, tougher even than the famous Sea to Sea (C2C). As such it represents an excellent challenge for anyone looking for a spectacular five to seven day ride.”

They are not wrong!

I’ve cycled over the Pyrenees, over a lot of the mountains of Northern Spain, the Alps (twice), but Wales almost killed me! Maybe not high, but steep! Short and steep! Did I mention steep?

There was some pushing. Who am I kidding? There was a lot of pushing! :-)


At one stage, a few feet from the top of a crest, pushing like a loon I ground to a halt. Brakes full on to stop any rolling back down, all I could do was stand there, holding the bike up. For about 5 minutes all I could do was maintain the status quo, neither forwards nor backwards. Eventually a car coming up behind me gave me the impetus to shove, grunt and swear the last few feet to the top.


The worst were the descents. Just as short. Just as steep. But because of the dodgy surface at the edge, combined with the blind bends (invariably) at the bottom, descents had to be controlled so there was very little momentum to carry me up the other side.

Nonetheless, it was great cycling.


I’ve been in Holyhead before and it’s fair to say that it’s not the most desirable destination. I got my ticket for the next morning and set off to the south to a campsite.

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HobbesOnTour

HobbesOnTour

Über Member
Location
The Netherlands
September 17, Holyhead to Dublin to Athy +/- 108 km

Early night followed by an early morning and the only upset was being turned away from the car check-in. On this ferry, I’m classed as a foot passenger.

They let me ride on and my bike was locked in a little office. Arriving in Dublin I was one of the last off my deck - fine by me - I’m not a fan of mixing with lots of trucks.

A Guard (Police) officer stopped me for a chat and I was off to cycle around Dublin, something I hadn’t done in about 25 years.

Dublin has changed a lot, but the attitude to cyclists hasn’t. I gave up my attempts to wander around some of my old stomping grounds due to the traffic and headed out of the city.

Joining the canal, I thought all was going to be good, but Dublin has even more different barriers so there was a few times of stopping, stripping the bike, removing the trailer and then reassembling all on the other side of the barrier.

There were a couple of times where I felt very exposed and insecure and truthfully was glad to turn off the canal and hit the roads.

In fairness to cycle.travel, the roads were well chosen, but Dublin traffic is so bad a lot of traffic takes these minor roads to avoid the snarl-ups on the bigger roads. These guys don’t have a lot of patience. Later, I was encountering the early rush-hour traffic, and they too were in a hurry.

In any case, getting dark, I finally made it to my destination and got to sleep in a bed for the first time in over a week!


September 18 Rest Day
 
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HobbesOnTour

HobbesOnTour

Über Member
Location
The Netherlands
September 19 Athy to north of Navan 116km

Here’s my understanding of Cycle.Route. The routes are not the shortest, but they are the most suitable for bikes. Over an extended coffee (more about that later) I asked OsmAnd to plot a route for me that came to 85 km as opposed to the 111km Cycle.Route plotted. Being familiar with a lot of the Osmand route and having cycled the CycleRoute route, I far prefer the Cycle.Route method. Quiet roads, minimal traffic.

That was especially important given that that day there was a Status Orange weather alert due to the remnants of a hurricane blowing across the country.

I didn’t know if I’d be able to travel so stalled over breakfast and coffee and more coffee. Eventually, I packed up and set off.

Windy it was! The worst and most dangerous were the crosswinds. They could be lethal. Thankfully, a north-easterly direction and plenty of cover from hedges negated the worst effects of the wind. I still had to be careful though, looking ahead for debris on the road and gaps (such as gates or junctions), behind for traffic coming up and above for trees or branches that might be getting ready to fall.

It was hard work with not a lot of chance to relax, at least when on the move. Most of the traffic I encountered were reasonable. In fact the greatest danger to me was a falling conker (horse chestnut) and a flying (empty) Costa coffee cup.


Given the conditions I was happy enough to arrive only 40 minutes later than I thought. No power meant a trip to town for some food.
 
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HobbesOnTour

HobbesOnTour

Über Member
Location
The Netherlands
September 20 North of Navan to North of Newry 82km

The problem with staying with friends are twofold - the big breakfasts and the good company, so I was way too late leaving today. Also, while the worst of the storm was over, the wind was still strong and gusty, the roads were full of debris and the sky was looking decidedly angry.

I had hoped to get close to Belfast today but with the late start that was already gone.

Quiet roads with occasional runs along a main road to the next secondary road meant the cycling was good, at least until close to the border. At that point, the number of heavy trucks on the secondary roads was surprisingly high and one truck passed so close it actually blew me off the road. Not nice.

I kept going and passed through Newry. I knew there were no campsites in the immediate area so I was on the lookout for a likely wild camping spot. The weather was aiding this by turning more blustery and wet. And cold. So cold, in fact, that my sandals were no longer enough to keep my feet warm. It was time to become a fashion pariah - wear socks with sandals!

As time went on there were less and less walkers. After Newry I was following a canal path but there were no likely camping spots until I came to a little wood that was secluded enough not to be seen and had enough clearance that meant a tree wouldn’t fall on me during the night.


I made myself some hot supper, set up the tent and settled down for a good night’s sleep.
 
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HobbesOnTour

HobbesOnTour

Über Member
Location
The Netherlands
September 21 North of Newry (N.I.) to North of Chlenry (Scot.) 93km

This morning I was feeling the pressure of my schedule, so I was up just after first light and off on the road. Breakfast was had at a very busy petrol station - a very nice breakfast sandwich and a big coffee and off again. Then I met Joe out for a spin. Joe has been cycling for 50 plus years and done some touring. We chatted as we rode comparing notes on the Camino de Santiago and he was telling me of his plans to ride across Canada. I hope he does. I ignored my GPS and rode with Joe until he deposited me on the canal to Belfast that brought me all the way in along a lovely ride.

Good time was made and when I hit the port I was pleased to learn that I had to wait an hour for the next ferry. (Yes! That was the extent of my planning!)

Getting on was a breeze. Again, treated as a foot passenger, but I was checked in separately, allowed to cycle on first and generally treated very well. Again, the bike was put in a secure office.

A quick crossing despite some heavy winds and I was in Scotland.

As I negotiated a double roundabout outside the port someone rolled down their window and greeted me; “Ye mad fookin’ ba$tard ye!”. It’s one of the great things about Celts when they speak English - they have a wonderful ability to use language that would be insulting if spoken by anyone else, but is meant as a compliment when spoken by them.

The helpful lady at the information desk on the ferry confirmed by very basic research that there were two campsites near the port. Campsites they were, but not for tents.


Off I went following singletrack roads for an hour until I found a little hidden spot for a wild camp.

It was just after I had seen what I thought was a very badly lit cyclist ahead of me but when I arrived at where the cyclist had turned off the road, there was no other road. Confused, I cycled slowly on and understanding literally jumped in front of me when a fine, red stag crossed the road (again) in front of me.

Camping later, I heard him lowing. I hoped he wasn’t being amorous!

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HobbesOnTour

HobbesOnTour

Über Member
Location
The Netherlands
September 22 North of Chlenry to Castlewood (near Shearington) 122km

Other than the debris on the roads and the occasional blown down tree, there was no evidence that the weather had been so bad recently. It was a great day of cycling, single track roads, gentle climbing and long descents, no rain and a fair bit of sunshine. Breakfast was in a little cafe in Newton Stewart. The only downside was that my front derailleur cable snapped off so I was stuck in my first 7 gears. I was carrying a spare cable but could find no likely place to stop to replace it. Ideally, I was looking for a picnic bench or similar, but there were none! Given that there were regular climbs I wasn’t really missing the other 14 gears so I cycled on.It was after passing through Dumfries I found what I was looking for and stopped. I unloaded the bike, took out my tools, opened up the gear changing thingy (see how technical I am!), removed the cable and then went to grab my spare. I had three cables. Every one a brake cable! I was sure one packet contained a gear and a brake cable, but no, they were both brake cables. And the solo pack was also a brake cable.

A little annoyed with myself, I loaded back up, and headed on. Had I stopped before Dumfries I could have picked one up. Oh well!

On I went to what I thought was a campsite, but what turned out to be more of a voluntarily run spot for campers to stop with a bit of grass for a few tents. Two motor-cyclists were already there and made me welcome.

Pasta for dinner and off to sleep.


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HobbesOnTour

HobbesOnTour

Über Member
Location
The Netherlands
September 23 Castlewood to Penrith 101km

Being a Sunday, I wasn’t sure what the situation would be for shops to be open. I cycled through Annan looking for a bike shop or a cafe and saw neither. In fact, there was a definite air of emptiness about the place. The sun was shining but the town centre was dead. A few places were open but nobody was around. On the edge of town, I understood why - There was a large Tesco on the edge of town and it was very busy!

I was a bit torn because really wanted some food, but I have a real dislike for big, out of town developments. I’m not a fan of what they do to small businesses and communities. Hunger overpowered morality, however, and I went in and bought some bread and some warm sausages. Paying for them, I happened to ask the cashier if they knew of a bike shop that might be open. She didn’t, but as I was walking away, her colleague who was on the phone motioned for me to stay. Off her own initiative, she had started making a couple of calls on my behalf. No success, but it has changed my attitude a little to these big, commercial developments.

Sitting outside in the sun, I scoffed my delicious sausages and bread and headed off to Carlisle. Google told me the bike shops in Carlisle were closed, but on spec, I tracked down a Halfords, cycled to it, rolled the whole bike in (no problem at all!) and got my cable (2 in fact!).

Now all I needed was a little space to work in peace. As it turned out, after Carlisle it was all climbing all the way to Penrith where I stopped for the night at a very well located, but sparsely furnished campsite.
 
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HobbesOnTour

HobbesOnTour

Über Member
Location
The Netherlands
September 24 Penrith to Tan Hill Inn 55km

The morning was the coldest so far, but a coffee and some breakfast got me going.

I put on the new gear cable and adjusted the brakes, front and back. More coffee and then I packed up and headed off.

I didn’t know it, but I was going to be needing those brakes pretty soon because the gentle hills were being replaced with higher, steeper, versions!

The first few hills were ok, but I noticed that my granny gear wasn’t engaging. Not sure why, the cable to the front derailleur shouldn’t have affected the back? Having spent some time sorting out the front, I was reluctant to stop to sort out the back. For 5 minutes. Because then I hit a hill of 20%. At the top of that, I stripped the bike and set about re-indexing the rear gears.

Now, indexing the gears is something I can do…. I just find it takes me a long time to get it right. And this time was no exception. At one stage, a guy pulled up in a pick-up and asked me if I needed anything? “A boatload of patience”, I replied. He laughed and told me he had none to spare!

An hour later, I was back rolling along with granny and all the other gears working as they should.

The countryside was glorious! It was so open! Above, the sky was in a constant state of flux. The clouds were effective in blocking out the sun, meaning the landscape was ever-changing, the colours going from bright green to dark blue and all the shades in between. Of course, when the sun was hiding, it was pretty cold too!

Once in the Dales, the road was single track, but almost no traffic. For cycling, it really could not get much better.

At one stage, I came across a road closed sign. Now, there were no other roads so I continued on. All it meant that there was no-one around. For miles. And miles. As it turned out, the road was being resurfaced, so when I came across the strip they were working on it was no problem.

On I went, winding uphill, to drop down to rise again. I had seen signs for an Inn and when it came into sight, a wave of unexpected tiredness washed over me. Some food, I thought, was in order so I parked up and wandered into a deliciously warm open fire.

As it turns out, for a donation to a charity box, you can camp out the back and even have a shower - all at the highest pub in the British Isles! I was sold! Then there was breakfast the next morning too!

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HobbesOnTour

HobbesOnTour

Über Member
Location
The Netherlands
September 25 Tan Hill Inn to Ripon 74km

The night was surprisingly calm, although the morning was cold. After breakfast, I had a chat with a few hikers before they set off, and then I too, set off. It was windy again. A group of roadies zipped past me, then their support van nearly ran me off the road. Later, a photographer from the van was pretty annoyed with me when I passed between himself and the cyclist he was trying to photograph. But soon I had the landscape all to myself. Based on a suggestion from a group of cyclists I met, I stopped outside Reeth at the Dales Cycle centre for coffee and delicious cake. Then on to Ripon. A quick stop at the tourist office and I set off to one of 2 local campsites. Of course, no tents allowed, so I went to the second, set up, bought some eggs and made dinner. Then bed.

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